The whole community (v. 5) has the limelight in these verses. Rather than deciding on their own which seven people will serve the community’s emerging needs, the twelve apostles invite everyone to participate in the process. They instruct the group to “select from among yourselves” servant-leaders whom the community discerns to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (v. 3). This plan pleased the whole community, so they embark on the work of deciding who should be chosen to serve. “They” in verse 5—the subject in they chose Stephen and the others—refers to the whole community, for “they” is also the subject of the verb in verse 6: They had these men stand before the apostles…).
Stephen is the first name on the list of seven who have been chosen to serve this way. In these individuals the whole community has discerned the work of the Spirit and the wisdom the Spirit imparts. Stephen in particular is described as one full of faith, which might also be translated “faithfulness,” and the Holy Spirit (v. 5). We soon see how he embodies Spirit-empowered faithfulness in the early church’s story. Stephen’s name, along with those of the other six, suggest that they are Greek-speaking Jews. The whole community, Aramaic-speaking and Greek-speaking, with all their cultural differences of which their languages are just one manifestation, are united in what the Spirit leads them to discern in the lives of their members. As a result of this gift of the Spirit, the Jesus movement spreads in Jerusalem.
When has your church community discerned the Spirit’s working presence in someone’s life? What qualities in the person helped you discern this? How do you help people recognize and respond to God’s call to serve?
Spirit of the Living God, help us to recognize your work in the lives of others and encourage them in it. Help us to realize the work that you want to do in and through our own lives. Amen.